Monday, 30 June 2014

Veg and Vim - Fanny Cradock's Meat Free Monday

After all the sponge cakes, Fanny brings this partwork to a close with a savoury treat for vegetarians in the shape of her first Menu, or Bill of Fare. Fanny is of course known more for her meat dishes, but in reality she was also a fan of meat-free cookery. Her only provisio was that it was cooked well, in other words, to her standards. She could not bear 'wasted' ingredients. She did admit that some of her recipes, like these, would be 'acceptable to vegetarians' and even the most carnivorous of humans had been know to 'react favourably' to them. Not exactly the most glowing endorsement for vegetarianism, but in 1970 I think we would have been even more of a minority than today. Although they couldn't be described as 'vegetarian' as such, Fanny did write two 'Vegetable Cookery' books in 1959 - the first called 'Cabbages and Things' and the second 'Veg and Vim' which explained how to prepare vegetables, how to grow them, how to balance out meals by replacing protein that would be normally be found in meat and so on. Probably based more on the necessity of the times than morality, but both still hold up very well today.

For this particular vegetarian supper, Fanny introduces some simple, exciting and exotic dishes aimed at helping you to get 'one-up-manship' on your neighbours as they are scarcely known in this country famous for it's meat and two veg. Ditch the meat. The first, a Tunisian delight called Chachouka, I am guessing didn't catch on as I still hadn't heard of it, but the second, Champignon Mornay or Baked Mushrooms in Cheese Sauce has become a vegetarian staple. Fanny prefers fresh vegetables, and even encourages us to go foraging like she did during the war to find large field mushrooms. However if foraging is not for you, and fresh is not available, Fanny does say that tinned can be substituted in 'emergency situations'.

The Chachouka starts life as slices tomatoes and peppers, or Pimentoes as Fanny always calls them, sautéed in butter. First though, they need to be peeled. The tomatoes are submerged in boiling water, but Fanny has a new technique to pimp up the Pimentoes. Fanny says to only buy hard ones which feel crisp to the touch, soft and wrinkly are not worth the money. So don't do it. To remove the skin 'successfully' they should be halved and set under a very hot grill until they blacken. The skin should now peel away like 'paper from a damp wall'. It does, and the benefit over my usual technique of placing them after blackening in a plastic bag is that they don't go slimy.

Once the are mingled nicely in a pan over a gentle heat with the tomatoes and butter, which appears to be the only flavouring added, and are piping hot they should be served with some scrambled eggs, again cooked in lots of butter. Butter is back in the foodie headlines as a 'good' ingredient at the moment, but Fanny always knew that.

One ingredient that Fanny uses which would certainly not be acceptable to any vegetarian, in 1970 or not, is pork fat. She uses this to 'impregnate' the mushrooms with flavour before they are baked. I make a substitution for more butter. It goes nice and nutty brown during the 'impregnation'. Then pile on a mix of cream, chopped shallot and cheese, which is seasoned slightly for baking. The two dishes are very simple, but very flavoursome, and really show off the vegetables to their best. I think vegetarian palettes and expectations might quiver a little at these if served in a restaurant today, but for a quick, homely supper full of 'veg and vim', and as 'penny plain dishes' as Fanny describes, they are perfect. Fanny knew her vegetables, and that seems acceptable to me.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Singh along with Tony at the Foodies Festival!

I was thrilled this week to witness my very own private food demonstration in the kitchen of Edinburgh's one and only Incredible Spice Man, Tony Singh. The front of house staff at the Old Bakehouse in West Linton, just 20 miles from Edinburgh, Tony's new restaurant home, warned me when I arrived that he had a cleaver in his hand and that I'd be 'lucky to get out alive, but go on through to the kitchen'... Was he channelling Fanny? Would I find a pile of poor assistants whimpering in the corner? Was he about to set to on an unsuspecting carcus with a sharp set of secateurs? Actually he greets me with a huge smile and a warm handshake 'I bet Fanny never had a restaurant, eh?'. I had a feeling this was going to be fun!

Tony was in full service prep mode, and a nosey blogger asking him a few questions about food demonstrations and old TV cooks wasn't going to slow him down. In what seemed like pure kitchen magic to me, without skipping a beat a whole box of tomatoes was expertly chopped, fried and transformed into something tasty, several phone calls were made, assistants given instructions and he even made me a cup of tea. 'Its only polite' he told me. Fanny would never have done that. 'I've got a fantastic kitchen team here, I couldn't do my demonstrations and TV stuff without them back at base'. Fanny would never acknowledge the team, but then again Fanny did an altogether different kind of foodie demonstration back in the day.

'I didn't know Fanny played big gigs and that' he told me when I asked what was in store for Foodies, referring to Fannys sell out performances at the Royal Albert Hall and Edinburgh's Usher Hall. 'I prefer more intimate venues where I can talk to people, get them asking questions and taste my food, even if that gets me in trouble with the health and safety folk. "Have they signed a waiver?" they ask me? I want to get folk excited about food and interact with me, otherwise it's just like being on the tele'. Tony admits he's more a fan of Julia Child than the 'funny montages' of Fanny he's seen on YouTube, but it's Margeurite Patten who has given him the best advice for performing. 'She was amazing, the original, and really inspired me - she was a revelation to me. She brought it home to me that people watching you on TV can't smell what you smell, can't taste what you taste, in her day they could only see her food in black and white. Amazing. She told me I had to reach out to the audience and capture them'.

Tony won't be doing any fancy nancy chef-y dishes at Foodies. So no soufflés wheeled in on ice sculpture swans like Fanny was famous for - his demo will be simple, fun and filled with inspiration for recreating his dishes at home. 'There's a time and place for foams, potions and fancy equipment, but my demonstration at Foodies is not it. I want folk to think "I'm going to try that home" and have a laugh while they learn'. So, expect to see Tony's Nutella Gateau or other delights from his recent book, Tasty. 'We use Valrhona Single Estate Hazlenut Chocolate in the restaurant, but at home it's Nutella!' he tells me, with more than a flourish of Fanny. 'I was challenged at a party to make something and that's what I came up with - simple, fun and folk loved it'. As quickly as I was ushered in my time was up, well nearly. Ever the showman, Tony was keen for me to capture a photo of him with Ronaldo in the restaurant. No tiaras, no ballgowns, but plenty of panache.

As I left the front of house guy seemed shocked, 'You got out alive then? He must've liked you!'. I liked him too, and I think you will. Get yourself along to Foodies from Friday 8th until Sunday 10th August 2014 at Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, to see him in action, and be prepared to be part of the performance!

I'm delighted to be part of the Official Foodies Festival Blogging Team! 

Ticket Information

2014 Foodies Festivals tickets are now available from or by calling 0844 995 1111.

1-day adult ticket for Friday £10.00
1-day adult ticket Saturday or Sunday £12.00 (£10.00 concession)
3-day adult ticket £18.00 (£15.00 concession)
1-day VIP ticket £38.00 (Friday VIP ticket £35)
Opening times: 10am until 6pm.

VIP tickets include a glass of Nyetimber English Sparkling Wine on arrival, access to the VIP tent throughout the day, a goody bag and priority entry to theatre and masterclass sessions as well as a private bar with refreshments throughout the day and great views of the entertainment stage.

All children aged 12 and under go free to all Foodies Festivals when accompanied by an adult.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Emergency Cake! It's my Blogiversary!

I've just realised that I started this blog one year ago today! Whoo-hoo, Happy Blogiversary to me! With all the recent sponge-tastic posts though, would you believe I've forgotten to bake a celebratory cake? Fanny must've known too, as the final of her sponges in this partwork is a cake for an emergency! She doesn't specify of course what the emergency might be. Perhaps one of the neighbours you are trying so hard to 'keep up with' pops round unexpectedly? Perhaps one of the long suffering assistants has reached a milestone, staying in Fannys employ for a whole year? Or perhaps like me, a special celebration creeps up on you unawares. Fannys answer is an Ice Cream Sponge. Sounds so 70's. And even better for me, it uses the very first recipe Fanny taught me a year ago - the standard Swiss Roll panel. Fanny'd up of course.

For her emergency solution, Fanny uses two big Swiss Roll panel cut into squares, but learning from all she has taught me so far, I make 5 smaller Swiss Rolls. Get me. She notes that you could also use her own invention, the 'Fanny's Egg Yolk Sponge' pressed down just like the Dobostorte. But it's Swiss Roll for me, quick to make and turns out perfect every time, if you follow Fanny's instructions of course!

As it's a special celebration for me, I want to reflect that in the cake. Fanny makes an ordinary square cake, but I cut my panels into a large 1 shape. Above all, garnish and presentation. I'm sure Fanny would want me to make a template, but I just go for it free hand, this is an emergency after all!

All that remains is to assemble the cake, which is filled with ice cream. Fanny, slightly shamefully, recommends that for emergencies it is perfectly acceptable to use 'bought' ice cream from the freezer. She does note that not everyone is as fortunate as she is to have a home freezer though. The bought ice cream of choice is a 'brick', how very 1970's - who knew you could still buy them!

So I carefully slice pieces of the ice cream and layer up the cake, brushing the sponges with apricot glaze to help it all stick together. I have to admit an altogether different kind of emergency is imminent as the ice cream is quick to melt, so I pop the whole cake back in my 'ordinary domestic freezer' while I set about whipping up some cream for the topping. Fanny suggests Crème Chantilly, and who am I to refuse a little apricot brandy in my cream? And a little harmless colouring too, it just wouldn't be a celebration without a splash of colour! So, emergency averted, I have a celebration cake! Thanks to you all for reading my ramblings over the past year, hope you stick with me as the creations get stranger and stranger! Now, quick, grab a slice before it melts everywhere...

Thursday, 19 June 2014

A Generous Genoese

Fanny does not recommend using nasty essences under ANY circumstances, not for 'snobbish reasons' as you might imagine, but because the flavours are false. I associate using vanilla pods with modern day baking, but as ever Fanny was way ahead. She does not want to dishonour any readers by not giving advice for anything less than perfection, and true vanilla flavouring is a must. Fanny does acknowledge that it's not a cheap option, but supplies some handy hints to use and re-use every single scrap of nourishment and flavouring from exhausted vanilla pods, just as 'proper professional cooks' do. Her main tip for pods is to make vanilla sugar by wiping them dry and burying them deep in jars of sugar after using to flavour milk, perhaps for custard. For this particular recipe for a Genoese Sponge, Fanny lists vanilla powder as a key ingredient. Again, not something I link to 1970's kitchens, but I happen to have a lovely little Vanilla Bean Grinder which is hopefully perfect for that true flavour.

Fanny demonstrates yet another sponge technique with the Genoese Sponge, or Pâté à Génoise as she calls it. Eggs, icing sugar and the ground vanilla powder are placed in a heat resistant bowl, placed over boiling water and whisked until they are light, thick, pale and foamy. Fanny recommends placing the boiling water in a larger bowl than the egg mixture, but I used a large saucepan, not because of my rebellious nature, just seemed to make sense. I used an electric whisk to 'whip' them, Fanny doesn't specify but it would seem like a lot of whisking by hand otherwise. Maybe I'm just lazy. 

Once it's ready, remove it from the heat and keep whipping until the mixture is at just below blood heat. Another of Fannys less than helpful instructions really, but I kept going for a minute or so, and tested it by jabbing my finger into the mix, which was cooler than before but still a little warm. I guess it depends how warm-blooded you are?

At this crucial stage, the flour needs to be gently sifted on top and folded in. I found it didn't blend in all that easily, but a few twists and turns later it seemed ok. I was worried about knocking out all the air by being too vigorous. When it's smooth, the melted and cooled butter is drizzled around the edges and folded through. 

After 20 minutes baking in a well prepared tin, it looks golden brown and meets Fannys press test - it springs back if you push your knuckles down on it. Perfect. Fanny decorated hers with chocolate glaze, but I only had white chocolate to hand, thankfully it was the posh kind with flecks of real vanilla through it. Fanny would be pleased. True flavours. To add to the summertime perfection I added some strawberries to get game, set and match for Wimbledon. It'll never last that long mind you. It's a lovely quick sponge, firm but springy. The flavours are truly vanilla, and the vanilla flavours are true. In essence, a perfect sponge. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Layer upon Layer

Fanny's family apparently called this 'squashed cake', which I doubt the Viennese 'hausfrau' that Fanny describes as wrangling over the split-hair niceties of their treasured family recipes would've approved of. They call it Dobostorte, or Austrian Layer Cake. Fanny speaks very highly of the Viennese, as they are marvellous pâtissiers who are reverent about fine food, fairly casual about wines and quite certain that no-one except their aunts and grandmothers ever knew how any single thing should be done properly. As we know, Fanny insists on things being done properly. She recounts a story of seeing two passionate, eye-blazing, well bosomed women 'shaking their black curls in fury' at each other over whether it was okay to pipe the edge of a 'Dobos' with buttercream, or not. Fanny gives nothing away at this stage, so let's see what the 'proper' answer is.

Fanny shows me another sponge technique with this one. The aim is to make several very thin layers of sponge which are then assembled into one cake. Just three ingredients for the sponge - eggs, flour and icing sugar. The egg whites are beaten within an inch of their lives, and the icing sugar added. Then, mix the egg yolks with a fork and beat them in, and blend the flour gently.

Fanny warns that I may be surprised at this stage and wonder if the very small amount of mixture will indeed stretch to several layers of cake. Well, five layers to be precise. This is what Fanny says I should aim for although she admits it was only after several practice attempts that she managed it herself. She says not to be too disappointed if I only manage 4. Ah-ha a challenge! The whipped mix goes into a small cake tin, just greased and lined, with only enough mix to cover the base. It takes 10 minutes to bake each layer, although Fanny suggests if you have five tins and many ovens you can make them all at the same time. Presumably Fanny has, but I don't. Fanny reassures me though that the mix will not spoil while I wait. Proudly, I made SIX little layers of sponge - take that Fanny!

When cool, the layers of sponge are assembled back in the tin, with layers of greaseproof paper in between, then heavy weights are placed on top overnight. I used jars of marmalade. This'll be the 'squashed' part. Next day it's time to make the buttercream filling, with chocolate chips, butter, icing sugar and egg yolks. It's basically beat the butter, add the sugar, beat again, add the melted chocolate and finally the yolks. It makes a glossy and thick buttercream, with a consistency of Nutella. Yum. All ready to spread I between each layer of sponge.

Fanny gives two variations for the top layer - the classic 'Dobos' way and a revised Fany version if I was to think that too complicated. I don't want those big bosomed Viennese women chasing me, so I'm going 'proper' with a caramel topping. This involves melting caster sugar in a small pan until it turns a rich golden brown colour, and then pour it over one of the sponges until it sets. The alternative version is just more buttercream and some milled nuts. Fanny reminds me that sugar can be very hot and not to burn my fingers. Once poured over, I need to score slices into it to avoid a disaster at a later stage. I presume this is a shattering top when cut, but my scoring skills aren't up to it I don't think. My finished Dobostorte is a little wonky, but cuts well and tastes great! I don't think I'll be setting up a Viennese Pâtisserie any day soon, but hopefully there will be no street fights either.

I've linked this blog post to the Cook Blog Share linky challenge by the lovely @supergolden88 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Fanny Cradock's Invention Test

In the days before Masterchef, Fanny herself ruled the TV cooking game. I'm not sure what she would've made of ordinary people being encouraged to cook, never mind encouraged to make up their own recipes. Just ask poor a Gwen Troake, who famously was involved in the decline of Fannys career on TV. Fanny did not approve of her trying to out-do the professionals (herself included) by daring to deviate from well trodden menus and techniques. 'You are among professionals now dear.' However Fanny obviously saw herself as a class apart, and more than able to unveil her own creations at the drop of a hat. So, if Fanny found herself on Masterchef (it would obviously be 'The Professionals' by the way and not the 'Celebrity' edition) and the following ingredients were presented in the Invention Test there would be no need for panic. Caster Sugar. Flour. Egg Yolks.

The obvious recipe, as far as Fanny is concerned at any rate, is a sponge cake. She calls it Le Biscuit de Reste, presumably as it's made from the 'remains' of the eggs that she's already used the whites to make the Fluffy Angel Cake. Or perhaps meringues. I guess Fanny is worried that if you have a pile of leftover egg yolks and you simply cannot do without cake, then you should have a recipe. It's only fair. 

So how does this minimal ingredient sponge come together? The yolks need to be whipped alone 'very thoroughly indeed' before the sugar is whipped in too. The mixture goes white and ribbony at this stage, or as Fanny notes, pale and frothy. Stop whipping altogether at this point and move to gentle mode, lightly but thoroughly folding the sifted flour in. The mix is really thick, and the flour doesn't really fold in very gently I have to say... But then, it's not my invention test.

Fanny turns the thick, bright mix (I'm tempted to say 'paste' but I'd be chased out the kitchen) into a ready prepared Victoria Sponge tin for baking. Fanny says it should be inverted on a cooling rack before turning out, which suggests it is quite delicate and light. I may have done something wrong of course, but mine doesn't seem like it's about to collapse. Still, I invert and when cooled it looks exactly the same as before and I reckon I could've just cooled it the right way round. Fanny suggests a quick dusting of icing sugar, and voilà she's ready to present it to Marcus Wareing (now that Michel Roux Jnr has gone) and Monica Galetti for tasting. Would they have the nerve to tell her it tastes like eggy cardboard? If you find that you've only got yolks and really need a cake in a hurry, then this is for you, but otherwise... 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Almond Angel - fatless doesn't need to be joyless

Fanny, just like her West Highlands with their well-chewed bones apparently, wants to determinedly dispel for every more any Featherweight Sponge Clouds which have hung over us in the past. I'm still surprised how many of them are fatless and the array of different techniques she employs. I was slightly apprehensive about tackling the Angel Cake, or Gâteau des Anges, as when I've seen others do it before they make a fuss made about using the correct tin and they just seem fiddly. Would Fanny insist I rush out and buy yet another to make this most cloud like of sponges? Fanny also includes quite a serious warning that this mixture CANNOT stand shocks or sudden changes in temperature. Perhaps it's not intended for a Scottish Spring? If I wasn't worried before, I am now...

This sponge uses only egg whites, sugar, flour, cornflour, salt and a teaspoon of cream of tartar. It's not an ingredient I use often, but I knew I had some in my cupboard somewhere. However I was a little stunned to notice that it was over three years out of date when I went to bake today. Oops. If I had an assistant they'd be dispatched to fetch some more, but as it was I had to head to the shops myself. Can you imagine?

However I soon was able to make good use of my very own trusted assistant - my KitchenAid mixer I lovingly call dear Sarah - was set to high, whisking up the five egg whites required to send this sponge into cloud heaven. Very stiffly indeed. A level teaspoon of the mysterious cream of tartar is sprinkled over the top, before sliding the sugar and salt into one side of the bowl. Fanny instructs blending with gentle turning and folding movements. I doubt the assistants ever found Fanny to be gentle.

There doesn't seem to be very much flour going into this cake, but I sift in the cornflour and self-raising mix as Fanny asks, repeating the blending process as before. The gently turned and folded mix looks glossy and puffy. Now it's time for the tin...

Thankfully for me I didn't need yet another trip to the shops, as Fanny recommends a very ordinary, loose bottomed sponge tin for the job. No fuss, no nonsense. She prefers a 5 1/2 inch diameter one, but I reckon my 6 incher will do just fine. Innuendos aside, what's half an inch between friends? Fanny has spent so much of this partwork carefully describing how to grease, flour and paper tins, but for this Gâteau des Anges the tin should remain dry. I think it's so the mixture can cling to the sides and rise well. It does. The cake seems fragile though when it comes out the oven, and Fanny suggest cooling it on a rack over a warm oven, until cool. Fanny decorates her sponge with simple sifted icing sugar and flaked almonds, but I decide a little whipped cream is needed. I replace the flaked nuts with some colourful Almond Joy Pieces I have leftover from my recent trip to the States. They are blue, I'm sure Fanny would like them! The texture of the cake is strange, a little chewy like an eggy candy-floss, but is certainly light. It seems to have survived the many change of temperature Edinburgh has to offer today. Hopefully it won't shock your diet too much either, well unless like me you pile on more cream and chocolates.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Can my icing skills matcha Fannys?

Fanny is not to know, but I've never been any good at icing and decorating cakes. I'm quite artistic, and love 'creating' things but when it comes to icing I just go to pieces. I can't do modelling, and am only just starting to master piping, thanks to Fannys instructions for potatoes of course. Fanny wants me to learn not only to ice, but to pipe a trellis design on to a cake. Eeek. In the partwork she gets everyone involved, even poor Johnnie is shown trellising away, it so easy apparently. Diligent assistant Dianne does the hard work on the cake though. It looks perfect of course, and Fanny says if I follow suit, so will mine. I am not convinced, just putting it out there. Before I can ice a cake I need to bake one, and Fanny recommends her close textured sponge for the job, which she also calls Recette Fanny, which presumably means it's her own recipe?

It's made using half flour and half cornflour, which is a new one on me, but I'm happy to try. Fanny recommends that the sponge itself be flavoured before baking and suggests coffee, orange, lemon, strawberry or raspberry if it's summertime. Well, it was sunny at the weekend, so for Edinburgh that counts as summer - raspberry it is. Let's not mention that it's been dull again today. Before I begin I have to sift the flour and cornflour onto a square of greaseproof paper, twice. But how much? 

Fanny asks me to weigh the eggs to determine the quantities - I need as much flour and cornflour as weight of eggs, and the same of sugar and butter. Twitter helped me out with this one - I wasn't sure whether to weigh the eggs in their shells or not... Seems it doesn't really matter, but in shells won. So the butter gets creamed, sugar added and creamed again, a small amount of the flour mix flung in and the eggs added one by one. Finally the rest of the flour is beaten in before the chosen flavour is added, or some milk if you fancy it 'plain'. Fanny always give the 'plain' option but makes it sound so dull and ordinary that everyone must leap straight you the flavours. For my raspberry flavour I need to sieve a punnet and add the same amount of juice as would've been milk. It's not as complicated as it sounds, just new to me. The batter is pink. 

The sponge bakes well and comes out the oven fairly flat on top and risen well. Presumably this is why it makes a good sponge for decoration? Fanny makes her buttercream using an egg yolk, which again is not something I've done before, and she adds an appropriate flavouring. Fanny did hers with coffee, but I wonder if some lovely Green Matcha Tea would be a better match with the raspberries? And surely Fanny would approve of the colour? The buttercream is dolloped on the underside which becomes the top (just to ensure it's perfectly smooth), flattened down with a spatula and placed in the fridge to set.

Fanny gives very loose instructions for her glacé icing - basically mix icing sugar with a chosen flavouring until it is the right consistency! It's quite hard when you are hoping to learn what that consistency is... I have some raspberry syrup, so set to mixing it up until it's 'pourable but thick' which is Fannys only clue. Again, Fanny shows how it runs over the cake but needs to be teased a little with a spatula dipped in hot water. I think I made mine too runny, it just won't stop. Fanny finishes her recette with a trellis of icing, and I choose to make this with Matcha powder too, just for fun. Fanny says that 'her way' totally eliminates the danger of picking up any spare cake crumbs when applying the icing. That is true, not a crumb in sight! There is a cake under their I promise, but I think I need a little more practice. Or perhaps ice the cake on a rack first then transfer to a board?